Travel Books

img_3979February is book lovers month

Travel always brings extra reading with plane time, airport delays, bookshop perusal and friends recommendations.

As quick ebook reads I started the Iris and Roy Johansen’s Kendra Michaels series. Kendra had her sight restored through stem cell technology as a young woman and now uses all her senses to help the FBI solve difficult murder cases. Today I discovered there is a new one in the series! The suspense kept me occupied for a day of flight delays. I love the ease of downloading Library ebooks. At any one time I have 5-7books waiting to be read, as well as a long hold list or current and popular titles.

An absolutely fantastic charming read was recommended by an RPL librarian. The Unexpected Inheritance Of Inspector Chopra, written by Vaseem Khan is the Alexander McCall Smith of India. It is also the first of three novels published (so far) and I have to find the other two. You are in for the funny, poignant, insightful tale of Chopra retiring from the police force but determined to solve one last case. I can’t wait to find out what happens with the baby elephant, a most unusual retirement gift.

Three Queens in Erin by Douglas Nicholas. RPL has this fantasy series, where few do; it it is one of the best! Read on if you like Patrick Rothfuss, Dave Duncan or GRRMartin. I was delighted to find the latest and last installment by this award winning poet. Magic exists but all the stories are based on actual British history. There are several plot lines that develop through the series, coming of age of Hob (to Robert the Englishman), good vs evil with magical shape shifting or witchcraft, clan allegiance and reestablishing matriarch lineage in medieval times. They must be read in order for full appreciation of the trials of Queen Maeve and the historical perspective. I loved every novel and the satisfactory sense of completion at the end of Three Queens.

Flavia is back!! I love all the Flavia deLuce books in Alan Bradley’s charming YA series. The Grave is a Fine and Private Place is the 10th installment in the award winning author’s preteen English sleuth. She has had so many maturing changes, but is back in Buckshaw in familiar territory: there’s another body, her trusted friends surround her and the celebrated wit and observations are to the fore. It’s not the best book in the series, I’d read them in order to appreciate this more. But it is a delightful read nonetheless.

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Book Group in a Bag

Our book group met today, using Zoom, as we couldn’t get out of our icy driveways. We all wanted to discuss this month’s amazing selection Homegoing and didn’t want to delay meeting. A friend has been to the slave castle (Cape Coast) in Ghana recently and provided a few photographs (thanks to Joe Lobl for including them). This book is available as a book group In a bag from RPL, but there is a reserve line. Ditto hardcopy and ebook. Sign up now!

Title: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Publisher: Knopf 2016 vintage reprint May 2017 320 pp

Highly recommended, rounded up to five stars

Author:

Gyasi is 26 year old and was born in Ghana. Her family moved to the USA when she was two when her father was completing his PhD at Ohio State. As an immigrant child “books were her closest friends”. She studied English literature, BA Stanford, MFA University Of Iowa. Homecoming was inspired by her first (2009) trip to Ghana and is her debut novel. The title is from an African belief that death allowed an enslaved persons spirit to travel back home to Africa.

National Book Critic Circle award for best first book

Winner of the PEN/ Hemingway Award

Winner of the NBCC’s John Leonard Award

A New York Times Notable Book

A Washington Post Notable Book

2017 Granta Best Of Young American Novelists

One of the Best Books of the Year: NPR, Time, Oprah.com, Harper’s Bazaar, San Francisco Chronicle, Mother Jones, Esquire, Elle, Paste, Entertainment Weekly, the Skimm, PopSugar, Minneapolis Star Tribune, BuzzFeed, The Guardian, Financial Times

Story:

(Excerpt from book plate) “Ghana, eighteenth century: two half sisters are born into different villages, each unaware of the other. One will marry an Englishman and lead a life of comfort in the palatial rooms of the Cape Coast Castle. The other will be captured in a raid on her village, imprisoned in the very same castle, and sold into slavery.

Homegoing follows the parallel paths of these sisters and their descendants through eight generations: from the Gold Coast to the plantations of Mississippi, from the American Civil War to Jazz Age Harlem. Yaa Gyasi’s extraordinary novel illuminates slavery’s troubled legacy both for those who were taken and those who stayed—and shows how the memory of captivity has been inscribed on the soul of our nation.”

Bookgroup comments:

1)The genealogy page is very important to keep the characters straight, but it was also noted that these stories were interchangeable with many African American families.

2)This is not the usual book you read from the Iowa Writing School. Loved the originality of it.

3)It was a dark book, not necessarily one I would have chosen to read. But we learned so many different things from it. Importantly the author wanted you to understand racial tension in America by the time you got to the end.

4)I became invested in the characters and wished to know so much more about them, instead of the short chapters they were restricted to.

5)Surprise at some of the literary criticism (our balanced book reporting), as we thought the writing was exceptional. She is working on her next book too.

Weekend Reading

6 books leapt into my hands during a quick trip into the Library. Yes, all in the New Section when you walk in. And mostly new to me authors.

Both the title and the cover attracted me to this book : A Strange Scottish Shore by Juliana Gray (the third book of the series, so now I have to read the other two!). Edwardian time travel back to 1300 Orkney with Scottish myths. Then I discovered that this is a pseudonym for Beatriz Williams, whose books I discovered in December, and proceeded to devour as great escapism.

A Hunter in Winter by Conor Brady A Joe Swallow mystery. This is the third in a series, set in Ireland 1888. Wonderful evocative writing with fascinating characters and political intrigue. Great quote:“All for the empire upon which the sun will never set….Because God couldn’t trust the English for what they’d likely do in the dark.”

Gin and Panic by Maia Chance was a delightful romp during prohibition NYC. This is also the third in the Discreet Retrieval Agency Mysteries. The author is writing her PhD dissertation on nineteenth century American literature.

And perhaps the most timely is Lockdown by Laurie R. King. I highly recommend ALL her books and was disappointed that this book wasn’t more popular. It’s a hard, difficult US subject, a high school lockdown, but King is an amazing detailed writer of psychological suspense.

Will finish the other two tomorrow or Monday of the long holiday weekend.

Happy reading!

(They will be returned Tuesday if you want to check them out!)

February chills

February is The month of Book Love

I am still reading a lot of escapism now in the wake of the current government. January devoured 50 books in fiction and non fiction. Mysteries are great fun, especially by known authors. I have many favourites and always look for their new releases. I have always been a fan of Thomas Perry and have recommended his books since his debut Edgar award winning novel The Butcher’s Boy (1982). Metzer’s Dog followed and then I loved the Jane Whitefield series. I have recommended several of his later mysteries on this blog. I am just delighted to report that his latest novel is fantastic. The read is a satisfying, gripping tale straight through.

Title: The Bombmaker, by Thomas Perry

Publisher: Mysterious Press, Grove Jan 2018 384 pp

Genre: thriller, suspense, mystery,

Highly recommended, Rounded up to 5 stars

Author:

Thomas Perry’s work has covered a variety of fictional suspense from The Butcher’s Boy, Metzger’s Dog, Big Fish to Island and Sleeping Dogs. His critically acclaimed Jane Whitefield series includes: Vanishing Act (chosen as one of the “100 Favorite Mysteries of the Century” by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association), Dance for the Dead, Shadow Woman, The Face Changers, Blood Money, Runner, and Poison Flower. The New York Times selected Nightlife for its best seller selection. Perry developed a non-series list of mysteries with Death Benefits, Pursuit (which won a Gumshoe Award in 2002), Dead Aim, Night Life, Fidelity, and Strip. In The Informant, released in 2011, Perry brought back the hit-man character first introduced in The Butcher’s Boy and later the protagonist in Sleeping Dogs. He has continued the best selling individual mysteries with Forty Thieves (2016), The Old Man h2017) and his current novel The Bomb Maker.

Perry received a B.A. from Cornell University in 1969 and his Ph.D. in English Literature. In addition to writing he is a television writer and producer (Simon & Simon, 21 Jump Street, Star Trek: The Next Generation). Perry has written 25 mystery/thriller novels, never the same book twice. His website is http://www.thomasperryauthor.com

Story:

This is an action packed, dangerous battle of wits in the City of Angels. In many ways this is very much a book of our times. We have a nameless villain, unknown terrorists, poor gun control (how easy was it to purchase dozens of machine guns??), political infighting, and unnecessary romance (although with the me too movement she initiated the relationship. I actually thought it it was more of an affirmation of being alive in this uncertain world). Perry is a brilliant suspense writer, with amazing meticulous technical research (yes, more than you ever wanted to know about bomb making). But the detail is essential to the complexity of both the characters and the frightening times we live in.

Was there ever any doubt that there would be an explosive ending?

The Rochester Public library has a hardcopy as well as ebook editions. They also have many of the newer books as ebooks.

A Valentine’s Read


Valentine approaches. It is a time of gift giving, to express our love with personal presents. Books are ALWAYS appropriate, especially this one. I have read all of Jio’s previous novels, recommended them to many people, and included one as a book club pick as I have never been disappointed. Her books are charming, gentle, thought provoking reads and often have great discussion points. They often provide you with an intense sense of time and place with fascinating indepth characterization and wonderfully descriptive layered stories. They are all great escapism reads too, to continue my 2017 theme. I opened this book with high expectations and great anticipation.Title: Always by Sarah Jio 

Publisher: Random House (Ballantine Books) February 2017 288 pp

Genre: women’s literature, fiction, romance, chick lit, contemporary romance 4.5 stars

Author

Sarah Jio is an international bestselling, award winning author of 8 books. She also is a contributing journalist to numerous publications including the New York Times, O, Glamour, and many others. She has also appeared as a commentator on NPRs Morning Edition. She lives in Seattle and knows the city well. I know little about the music scene in Seattle, but her research is generally impeccable, and she writes hauntingly beautiful prose. I was originally giving this 4 stars, but having read her recent columns for my background research, I was ready to give her five full stars for her continued faith in love. My cynicism is showing, but she has my admiration. I have no doubt she is raising the future Prince Charmings in her three sons.

Story line

I was immediately transported to Seattle, present and past (1996) as the story alternates between these two time frames. Kailey, a newspaper journalist with a promising career is newly engaged to a seemingly perfect businessman, Ryan, who adores her. However, she will always remember her first, true love, Cade. Then she unexpectedly meets him and has to uncover his story. This provides an interesting social awareness backstory of homelessness. There is a powerful mix of heartbreak and hope. It’s an emotional tangle with two good men and impossible choices. There is good pacing, with an element of suspense and good character development. Yes, you can predict the ending, and it’s a little too perfect, but sometimes suspending reality feels necessary. Love is rarely simple, but it’s always worth fighting for. The greater good, humanitarianism, has never been more important. It was a fast read (my kindle said two hours). I’m expecting Tom Hanks in the title role. 

Spoiler: With each new political appointee I wanted her to marry the rich guy and buy the right people, not move to France.

Read on

Especially her debut The Violets of March and The Last Camellia

Lisa Kleypas, Debbie Macomber, Georgette Heyer, Sophie Kinsella

Quotes

To old love and new, but, most of all, to the kind that lasts, always.

It’s true. I’ve long since stopped feeling the ache in my heart that I lived with for so long. I may not have had closure, but I have tasted wisdom.

I know that all I want, for the rest of my life, is this. All I want is this love. I want it every day. I want it morning and night. I want to breathe it in. I want to drown in it. And it strikes me how wonderful and tragic it is that in a sea of people just one can reach you so deeply.

Received as an ARC ebook from Netgalley.

We’re Not Dead Yet!

I am reading a lot of escapism now in the wake of the new president. January devoured 40 books in mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, children’s and much non fiction. Mysteries are great fun, especially by known authors. I have many favourites and always look for their new releases. A fan of Thomas Perry, I have recommended his stories since his debut Edgar award winning novel The Butcher’s Boy (1982). Metzer’s Dog followed and then I loved the Jane Whitefield series. I own most, have read them all, given several away multiple times. I have recommended several of his later mysteries on this blog. I am just delighted to report that his latest novel is fantastic. I read this immensely satisfying tale straight through.
Title: The Old Man by Thomas Perry

Publisher: Mysterious Press January 2017, 352 pp

Genre: mystery, thriller, espionage, suspense. 5 stars *****

Author: Thomas Perry (b 1947) has a phd in English literature (and as they often do, lists employment as laborer, fisherman, maintenance, weapons mechanic, university administrator and teacher. But then it gets interesting with writer, television producer and writer, including Simon and Simon. 21 Jump Street and Star Trek, the Next Generation.) He is an award winning author, having written 24 suspense novels, notably The Butcher’s Boy (series), Metzer’s Dog and the Jane Whitefield series. Recently he has been writing stand alone mysteries/thrillers, although with this novel, I am sincerely hoping he will start a new series.

Story line: This is a dark tale of a former army special ops, who has lived quietly in Vermont for many years, raised a family, while always on alert. And they did come for him. Not just the Libyans, but our own government, in an all too possible scenario. He stays one step ahead of them using his planning, discipline, intelligence and competence. Dan Chase (aka Peter, Harry, Bill…don’t get used to the name) is a very young “old” man (60 retired widower). 60 is the new 30? Actually I am just fine with that this birthday year!

I particularly liked Julian Carson a conflicted field officer and a great pair of trained dogs, Dave and Carol. I wanted more from the ending, and a few things didn’t add up for me, especially the female character. But it was fast paced and clever with several unexpected twists. Given his hiding in plain sight, I expected to see Jane Whitefield too!

Perry has addictive writing, sharp, engaging, tight multi layered plot, with interesting characters. I thought this book was a return to his previous stellar works, although all are worth reading. I would love to see Dan/Bill become a series, would like to believe we have such individuals in the world. As well as have an older hero, whose maturity provides wisdom (and answers). This is great escape reading, perfect for your winter vacation; it also works to avoid winter cabin blues, with the rollercoaster ride providing adrenaline rushes.

Read on: if you like John LeCarre, Geoffrey Household, Jack Reacher or Jason Bourne 

John Sandford’s Virgil Flowers series

Quotes: The predicament he had created for himself when he was young had made him aware that life was precious.

Curiosity is a sign of a lively mind. That’s the only kind worth having.

Julian kept walking. He had warned his superior officers. He had told them a couple of times that the old man wasn’t just an old man, like somebody’s uncle.

He was old in the way a seven-foot rattlesnake was old.

Received as an ARC ebook from Netgalley, as well as purchased hardcover.

It’s (Always) Sherlock Season!

I have many favourite Sherlocks: literary, media, old and new, not the least being Cumberbatch, who I sincerely hope plays Mr Holmes, husband of Mary Russell, as written by Laurie King. The original Sherlock Holmes, the fictional English detective extraordinaire, was created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1887 (A Study in Scarlet) and has never died. This legendary figure lives on in current literature, television and movies. I have especially liked many of the modern takes, including the short stories of King and Klinger. Each collection has had spectacular tales by some of the best writers of our time: (King, Klinger, Connolly, Bradley, Gaiman, …) Indeed, each volume I couldn’t wait to see who wrote another installment! Every volume has a fascinating, charming, unsettling story for everyone, so don’t miss them. 
Title: Echoes of Sherlock eds Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger
Publisher: Pegasus Crime

Genre: mystery, thriller fiction, series, short stories, 

5+ stars

Authors:

Laurie R King is a best selling author of the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series, SanFran homicide inspector Kate Martinelli mysteries, as well as highly recommended stand alone suspense novels. She has been nominated for and won many awards for her writing, (including a Nero for A Monstrous Regiment of Women, (Russell/Sherlock) and a MacCavity for Touchstone, one of my favourite mysteries). Recently, she was awarded an Agatha for best historical 2015 Dreaming Spies! The first Russell/Sherlock is The Beekeeper’s Apprentice (1994). 

Leslie Klinger is an American attorney and writer AND an eminent literary editor and annotator, particularly of the Sherlock Holmes Canon. His New Annotated Sherlock Holmes won an Edgar (the annual Edgar Allan Poe awards). Both King and Klinger are Baker Street Irregulars. They have edited three collections of stories inspired by the canon. The previous book in this series In the Company of Sherlock Holmes: Tales Inspired by the Holmes Canon, won both the Anthony and the Silver Falchion awards for “Best Anthology”.

Story line:

This is the third editorial collaboration of Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger of newly commissioned tales from somewhere in the Sherlock Holmes tradition or canon. Like the previous collections, A Study in Sherlock: Stories Inspired by the Holmes Canon and In the Company of Sherlock Holmes: Stories Inspired by the Holmes Canon, this edition has 18 short stories, memorable, wonderful, intriguing and suspenseful. There are two that didn’t appeal to me but most have widely different takes, so I would recommend reading one or two an evening, savouring each gem. Too many at once dims the appreciation of these unique stories. Enjoy the different takes in Victorian life, fresh imagination, reflections of current Holmes/Watson (PSTD) with complex cases and nasty villains. They all pale in comparison to John Connolly’s (soon to be award winning!) contribution. I have absolute favourites in each of these three volumes and would love to have them in a best of volume! My top three would be Connolly, Alexander, Perry, followed closely by David Morrell, Dana Cameron. Indeed I will be reading more of some of these authors. Several left me wanting to turn the page for continued story. Continue the anthology please! Keep the new stories and varied authors coming. I had no idea so many people would like to try their hand at Holmes.

Read on

A Study in Sherlock: Stories Inspired by the Holmes Canon and In the Company of Sherlock Holmes: Stories Inspired by the Holmes Canon. 

Caleb Carr The Italian Secretary

Anthony Horowitz The House of Silk, Moriarity

Laurie R King Mary Russell series

Alan Bradley Flavia deLuce series

Jasper Fforyde Eyre Affair Tuesday Next series

Quotes:

All of which only goes to prove that when one is dealing with Sherlock Holmes, a man “who never lived and so can never die,” physics goes out the window.

Holmes on The Range by John Connolly is both my favourite and the best of this collection. It extends his Edgar award winning novella The Caxton Private Lending Library 2014 in Night Music. Don’t forget to read his first set of unsettling supernatural short stories Nocturne.

The history of the Caxton Private Lending Library & Book Depository has not been entirely without incident, as befits an institution of seemingly infinite space inhabited largely by fictional characters who have found their way into the physical realm.

Caxton Private Lending Library & Book Depository was established as a kind of rest home for the great, the good and, occasionally, the not-so-good-but-definitely-memorable, of literature, all supported by rounding up the prices on books by a ha’penny a time.

“I don’t profess to be an expert in every field,” he replied. “I have little interest in literature, philosophy, or astronomy, and a negligible regard for the political sphere. I remain confident in the fields of chemistry and the anatomical sciences, and, as you have pointed out, can hold my own in geology and botany, with particular reference to poisons.”

“It’s not the way I was written. I’m written as a criminal mastermind who comes up with baroque, fiendish plots. It’s against my nature even to walk down the street in a straight line.

Believe me, I’ve tried. I have to duck and dive so much that I get dizzy.”

“By the way, is my archnemesis here?” asked Holmes. “I’m not expecting him,” said Mr. Headley. “You know, he never seemed entirely real.”

He then returned to the bowels—or attic—of the library, and found that it had begun to create suitable living quarters for Holmes and Watson based on Paget’s illustrations, and Watson’s descriptions, of the rooms at 221B Baker Street.

The Spiritualist by David Morrell (where Conan Doyle gets a ghostly visit from Holmes full of family history)

But the great actor, William Gillette, used it as a prop when he portrayed me on stage. It looks more dramatic than an ordinary straight pipe.”

Raffa by Anne Perry is a lovely, charming tale of a 9 year old who needs Sherlock.

He drew in his breath to try to explain to her that he was Marcus St. Giles, playing Sherlock Holmes on television.

Her wide blue eyes did not waver from his. The trust in them was terrifying. Was the real Sherlock Holmes ever faced with . . . but now he was being idiotic.

There was no ‘real’ Sherlock Holmes! “That sounds about right,”

“The things we love matter, whatever they are,” 

“I think you are a lot nicer for real than you are in the stories that Dr Watson writes about you.”

The Crown Jewel Affair by Michael Scott

This once-elegant street was now the cancer at the heart of Dublin, the second city of the British Empire. Crime, perversion and disease were rampant and it was ruled by a series of terrifying women:…

“Mr. Corcoran, there are more whores in this city than in London and Manchester combined. That is because we are a garrison city, a port city. We have English regiments training in the Royal Barracks and on the Curragh, and the quays are busy with British warships and merchantmen from around the world. All those soldiers and sailors are looking for relief.

The Case of The Speckled Trout by Deborah Crombie

I’d never been north of the Border, so as the train gathered speed out of Edinburgh’s Waverly Station I looked out the window with interest.

While I was trying to decide whether I had sold myself into Dickensian slavery—or was destined to be a Scottish Jane Eyre, stuck on the moor with a dour master and a mad wife—the road ran downhill and we were again in the land of green glens and burbling streams

Cooking, it turned out, was only chemistry.

The Adventure of The Empty Grave by Jonathan Maberry (Watson meets Dupin, the first fictional detective of EA Poe)

Dupin was clearly possessed some of the same intellectual qualities as my late friend, but he also had a fair few of the less appealing habits that apparently are part and parcel. Superiority and condescension, not the least.

Received as an ARC ebook from Netgalley, as well as purchased hardcover. Available from Rochester Public Library (and as Ebooks).